WASHINGTON, (AP) – Quoting repeatedly from Osama bin Laden, President Bush said Tuesday that pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq would fulfill the terrorist leader’s wishes and propel him into a more powerful global threat in the mold of Adolf Hitler.
With two months until an Election Day that hinges largely on national security, Bush laid out bin Laden’s vision in detail, including new revelations from previously unreported documents. Voters were never more united behind the president than in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and his speech was designed to convince Americans that the threat has not faded five years later.
Democrats have been increasing their criticism of the president’s policies in Iraq as the congressional elections approach, with the latest salvo coming in a letter Monday that suggested he fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The White House rejected the idea, both in a written response from chief of staff Joshua Bolten and in a lengthy verbal rebuttal from spokesman Tony Snow.
“It’s not going to happen,” Snow said. “Creating Don Rumsfeld as a bogeyman may make for good politics but would make for very lousy strategy at this time.”
To make the administration’s strategy more clear, the White House on Tuesday published a 23-page booklet called “National Strategy for Combating Terrorism,” which Bush described as an unclassified version of the strategy he’s been pursuing since Sept. 11, 2001. The booklet’s conclusion: “Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America is safer, but we are not yet safe.”
Democrats dismissed Bush’s actions as a public relations strategy that avoided real solutions.
“A new glossy strategy paper doesn’t take the place of real change that will make our country safer,” said Sen. Russ Feingold (news, bio, voting record), D-Wis.
“If President Bush had unleashed the American military to do the job at Tora Bora four years ago and killed Osama bin Laden, he wouldn’t have to quote this barbarian’s words today,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. “Because President Bush lost focus on the killers who attacked us and instead launched a disastrous war in Iraq, today Osama bin Laden and his henchmen still find sanctuary in the no man’s land between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they still plot attacks against America.”
Bush’s speech was the second in a series linked to next week’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. It was delivered to the Military Officers Association of America in a hotel ballroom filled with U.S. troops, including several injured in the war, and with diplomatic representatives of foreign countries that have suffered terrorist attacks.
Later, the White House said Bush was extending for one-year the national emergency he declared following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because the “terrorist threat continues” and measures adopted to deal with that emergency must remain in effect.
Bush planned a third speech Wednesday from the White House, laying out his plan to change the law so that detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can be tried for crimes before military commissions.
The administration also was expected to brief lawmakers Wednesday on a new Army field manual that would set guidelines for the treatment of military detainees. Congress passed legislation late last year requiring military interrogators to follow the manual, which abided by Geneva Convention standards.
Bush argued Tuesday that history will look favorably on his currently unpopular war strategy.
“History teaches that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake,” the president said. “Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say?”
To make his case, the White House cited previously unreleased documents including a copy of the al-Qaida charter found by coalition forces in Afghanistan that says hostilities will continue until everyone believes in Allah.
One document Bush cited was what he called “a grisly al-Qaida manual” found in 2000 by British police during an anti-terrorist raid in London, which included a chapter called “Guidelines for Beating and Killing Hostages.” He also cited what he said was a captured al-Qaida document found during a recent raid in Iraq. He said it described plans to take over Iraq’s western Anbar province and set up a governing structure including an education department, a social services department, a justice department and an execution unit.
The White House also unveiled a letter from bin Laden to Taliban leader Mullah Omar in which he wrote about plans for a “media campaign to create a wedge between the American people and their government” so the people will pressure leaders to retreat in the fight.
Bush also quoted bin Laden saying:
• “Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us.”
• Al-Qaida can cause the U.S. economy to collapse by implementing a “bleed-until-bankruptcy plan.”
• The defeat of American forces in Beirut in 1983 is proof America does not have the stomach to stay in a fight. “In Somalia, the United States pulled out, trailing disappointment, defeat and failure behind it,” Bush said bin Laden wrote.
• “The most serious issue today for the whole world is this third world war that is raging in Iraq. … The whole world is watching this war and that it will end in victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”
Bush said a democratic Iraq is a threat to bin Laden’s aspirations.
“That is why we must not, and we will not, give the enemy victory in Iraq by deserting the Iraqi people,” Bush said.